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Review: ‘Inside the Sideshow Studio: A Modern Renaissance Environment’

Inside the "Waxworks," the 3-D arm of the Design department at Sideshow Collectibles

Inside the “Waxworks,” the 3-D arm of the Design department at Sideshow Collectibles

If you are into pop culture, and who isn’t, then one way or another you know about Sideshow Collectibles. Either you own some, know someone who does, or some other scenario. The fact is that this is the place that makes the premium items from the worlds of superheroes, fantasy, science fiction, and more. You know, replica figures of Indiana Jones, Darth Vader, Poison Ivy, you name it. What this new book makes clear is that items of this caliber are indeed worthy of praise and then some. Welcome to “Inside the Sideshow Studio: A Modern Renaissance Environment,” published by Insight Editions.

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For me, personally, I’ve always enjoyed marveling over the various new figures on display at comics conventions. I’m not necessarily a hardcore collector type but, then again, I do find it hard to let go of things. After reading this book, I have a strong desire to just toss a bunch of stuff and make room for one really awesome figure to brighten up a space. Well, at least one. As you’ll see in this grand tour, all the employees at Sideshow Collectibles are encouraged to deck out their work stations and offices with items they hold dear. And, as many will happily tell you, they seem to do best with a certain amount of positive life-affirming clutter. Based upon what I see here, all this clutter is pretty cool and full of style.

Poison Ivy, Premium Format Figure, Sideshow Collectibles

Poison Ivy, Premium Format Figure, Sideshow Collectibles

No doubt, this book is an essential addition to whatever Sideshow Collectible item you may already own. And, if you happen to be pretty new to the whole scene, this book may inspire you. Not only is it a inside look at the fun factory but there’s a fair share of industry insights sprinkled about. Plus, there are numerous extras regarding a vast array of figures. You’ll find a number of inserts like the one above of Poison Ivy coming from different vantage points: graphic design, painting, sculpture, and so on. The book is a total treat.

“Inside the Sideshow Studio: A Modern Renaissance Environment” is a 128-page hardcover, all full-color photography, published by Insight Editions. For more details, visit our friends at Insight Editions right here.

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Filed under Comics, fantasy, Insight Editions, pop culture, Sideshow Collectibles, Superheroes, Toys

Review: ‘Disillusioned Illusions’ by Greg Stump

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You know those optical illusions where you see an illustration of a boy fishing in a boat and then, once it’s flipped around, you see a bearded lady? Well, how about a vase that, once two shadows pull away, you see two living and breathing silhouettes of a couple of wiseguys? And how about if, once free, they commence to endlessly chatter about various things? Welcome to “Disillusioned Illusions,” the debut graphic novel by cartoonist Greg Stump. This sort of humor is brave and harder to pull off than it might seem. It does one thing in particular that requires skill and a certain temperament: it messes with you, tries your patience, and dares you to see it through to the end.

Panel excerpt from "Disillusioned Illusions," by Greg Stump

Panel excerpt from “Disillusioned Illusions,” by Greg Stump

Now, I read and go out and see my fair share of absurdist humor and theater. I get the joke. Good or bad, this sort of thing is more likely to try my patience than not. Stump’s book reminds me of Dash Shaw’s “Bottomless Belly Button,” also published by Fantagraphics. It too is a prime example of something out to test the reader, see how far it can go with subverting expectations. In the case of Shaw’s work, the reader must be willing to take a leap of faith with intentionally arty/bad drawing and meandering plot, and is ultimately rewarded with an offbeat story. But, first, they are forced to decide to stick around as opposed to coast along with something more familiar. I mean, say, Batman is never going to force you to decide. Well, at least the intention is not there.

Panel excerpt from “Disillusioned Illusions,” by Greg Stump

Panel excerpt from “Disillusioned Illusions,” by Greg Stump

And so, these two wiseguys banter back and forth. The layout and composition is decidedly minimal. And to what end? Is it only to try your patience? Or is it also to stack together something interesting? Or, still, maybe it’s all meant to exist as this offbeat amusement. Let’s look closer. Oh, wait, let’s work with the idea that each silly moment of farce is building on to the next. The two guys begin by figuring out what their roles are. They appreciate the fact that they’re in a “graphic novel.” They realize that graphic novels are supposed to be cool and marketable. And, the longer, the better. So, they begin by padding the content and altering the page count.

The two wiseguys bicker over whether one should wear a vase as a hat. And then a new character, identical to the first two, is brought in to attempt to spice things up. His name is Rodney and it seems his main purpose is to underscore how little plot there is. In the course of events, you do get the feeling that Stump is bringing in anything and everything that might come across his mind. He definitely evokes a frantic and unstable improv comedy set.

Page from "Disillusioned Illusions," by Greg Stump

Page from “Disillusioned Illusions,” by Greg Stump

Give any artist enough room and maybe they begin to reveal something about themselves or at least about their process. In the case of Greg Stump, he is a notorious kidder. He will pull your leg until he pulls it right off your torso. And then he’ll swing your severed leg above him as he yells out a battle cry. But he is also a meticulous craftsman. Remarkably, what you end up with here is a lot of very funny dialogue and a plot that does grow in a genuinely intriguing and entertaining way. And, most important of all, you will laugh.

All in all, I have to admit that this book grew on me. When it comes to wacky humor, I am open to just about anything. And I conclude here that perhaps it doesn’t matter if the reader or Stump has the last laugh. Because, yes, there is that prankster element running throughout. But the saving grace is an inventive spirit that also runs right along with the smart aleck foolishness. And there are a number of twists and turns as, indeed, one silly element stacks upon another. For those who love offbeat and experimental work, this will definitely appeal to you. Furthermore, just like an optical illusion, there is more here than first meets the eye.

“Disillusioned Illusions” is a 356-page paperback, published by Fantagraphics. You can find it by visiting our friends at Fantagraphics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Greg Stump, Humor

ZCO.MX Offers Readers a World of Great Indie Comics

From Roger Langridge's "The Iron Duchess," available at Zco.mx

From Roger Langridge’s “The Iron Duchess,” available at ZCO.MX

ZCO.MX is a new and unique place to find some of the best work from leading contemporary cartoonists. ZCO.MX is where you can instantly read some of the best comics around with their “try before you buy” model. The goal is to foster goodwill among the comics community, cartoonists and readers in this together. You can read and share comics for free and then you have an opportunity to directly contribute to the cartoonists who made that work.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Independent Comics, Self-Published, zco.mx

A Recap to ‘What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones’ at the EMP Museum in Seattle From a Cartoonist’s Perspective

Henry Chamberlain at EMP Museum 13 June 2015

Henry Chamberlain at EMP Museum 13 June 2015

I was the guest cartoonist at the grand opening of “What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones” at the EMP Museum in Seattle this Saturday, June 13, 2015. My role there was primarily to draw. I was there to do what I know and love, draw comics. In this case, comics with a Chuck Jones theme. I was simply there to express as much as I could about what I know and love about the world of Chuck Jones. Yikes! Where to begin? Well, one rabbit ear at a time.

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Filed under animation, Bugs Bunny, Chuck Jones, Comics, Daffy Duck, EMP Museum, Road Runner, Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Entertainment, Wile E. Coyote

Review: ‘Figure Fantasy: The Pop Culture Photography of Daniel Picard’

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Many people enjoy collecting pop culture figures. Some collectors will add an environment to showcase them. What if the sky’s the limit and you could go hog wild? Imagine, for instance, the Joker facing off with G.I. Joe. And have that in a realistic setting. Well, as kids, the sky was always the limit! Your characters didn’t have to obey any rules and you could have all sorts of battles that would never have taken place anywhere else. In that spirit, photographer Daniel Picard has let it roll with some inspired work with icons we all know and love.

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Picard photographs 12-inch figures from Sideshow Collectibles, then does only what a skilled adult can do: create those sort of moments that kids around the globe conjure up just for the fun of it. These are to-scale environments with an uncannily realistic look.

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Actor Simon Pegg provides a forward calling this collection, “a wonderful conversation piece.” Kevin Smith provides an afterword describing Picard’s work as a “salute to all the fun we had with our toys as kids.”

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“Figure Fantasy: The Pop Culture Photography of Daniel Picard” is a 132-page hardcover, priced at $29.99 US, published by Insight Editions. For more details, and to purchase the book, visit our friends at Insight Editions right here.

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Filed under Collectibles, Comics, Insight Editions, Photography, Sideshow Collectibles, Star Wars, Toys

Review: BASELINE BLVD by Emi Gennis

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Emis Gennis is a cartoonist who I see as someone who likes to get down to business and create good comics. I admire that. Her work is clean and professional while also maintaining an organic energy to it. For her latest work, “Baseline Blvd,” she employs a precise and bold use of pencil to take us on quite a journey.

Gennis has a keen interest in sordid tales, as I’ve seen from her past work. For this one, we follow the emotional turmoil from an abusive relationship and the end results. We view this from various vantage points, often very quiet and nondescript.

A woman carries flowers in her car on a trip to find some resolution. We don’t know very much about her or any other details than are necessary. It’s as if the flotsam and jetsam of the urban sprawl the young woman sees on her way to her destination tries to compete for our attention. Faceless everyday detritus. A crow devouring roadside carrion.

Gennis is a born storyteller. “Baseline Blvd” shows us a cartoonist well on her way. This new comic just debuted at the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival. For more details on work in general, visit Emi Gennis right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Carrion Press, Comics, Emi Gennis, Independent Comics, Indie, mini-comics, Minicomics, Self-Published, Vancouver Comic Arts Festival

Review: THIS IS CEZANNE, published by Laurence King Publishing

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Like Van Gogh, Cezanne (1839–1906) stood out from his contemporaries. He was the original bad boy, or “enfant terrible.” He was brash, experimental, and ahead of his time. Unlike Van Gogh, his life and work is not nearly as familiar to the general public. “This is Cezanne,” part of the This is Art series from Laurence King Publishing, provides an inviting and illuminating look at a most intriguing and influential artist. You will delight in this work, monograph by Jorella Andrews and illustrations by Patrick Vale.

Cezanne

Cezanne first gained notoriety, or infamy, from his paintings that parodied some of the leading figures from the older generation of artists. It shocked. It offended. It was a sensation. And that common thread of sensation ran through his later work concerned with the tactile and immersive. A rebel to the end, Cezanne did enjoy working with conventional compositions (still life, plein air, domestic scene), often with a sardonic twist and, just as often, with a gentle quality.

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Bad boy antics aside, Cezanne was deeply interested in art tradition at its roots, going back to basics of line and color. This was also of great interest to a fellow artist provocateur, Edouard Manet. The two of them lampooned mindless art traditionalists. However, they could both be found in the Louvre studying the masters…on their own terms, gleaning what they needed.

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“This is Cezanne” is available now. Visit our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here. You can also find this book at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Cezanne, Laurence King Publishing, Modern Art

Review: THIS IS VAN GOGH, published by Laurence King Publishing

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Vincent van Gogh, the quintessential symbol of the artist. But, just like any public figure, the reality of the person is far more complicated. Unlike popular belief, Van Gogh was no caricature of a madman with a paintbrush. You could say there were two Van Goghs: the tortured soul; and the sophisticated artist attuned to trends in contemporary art. Make no mistake, Van Gogh knew his art and directly from some his most celebrated contemporaries. In “This is Van Gogh,” one of the latest in the “This is Art” series, published by Laurence King Publishing, George Roddam provides a concise and substantial monograph accompanied by moving illustrations by Sława Harasymowicz. This graphic novel format proves to be a most compelling look at the artist suitable for any age.

Van Gogh

As much as loneliness and rejection weighed upon Van Gogh, it’s essential to know that he was just as absorbed with art matters: content, composition, and, most importantly, color theory. Red. Green. Opposing colors on the color wheel. Brought together. They evoke tension. They evoke emotional turmoil. A band of colors, just like the ones used by the local weavers. Behold, their close unison creates a vibrant gray throughout. Black. A more complex and dazzling black is made up by blending multiple colors. Color theory. The impressionists, ah, some became mired in it. Color theory. The Post-Impressionsits, ah, some became too technical about it. Color! Use it. Revel in it. The tension between green and red!

Illustration in "This is Van Gogh" by Sława Harasymowicz

Illustration in “This is Van Gogh” by Sława Harasymowicz

The “This is Art” series is, I cannot stress enough, a wonderful treat and useful art tool. Each monograph is expertly written and the illustrations are from some of the best artists around the world. “This is Van Gogh” is available now. Visit our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here. You can also find this book at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Laurence King Publishing, Van Gogh

Review: FERTILITY, published by Centrala

FERTILITY by Gosia Herba and Mikołaj Pasiński

FERTILITY by Gosia Herba and Mikołaj Pasiński

“Fertility” is a beautiful and strange graphic novel by Gosia Herba and Mikołaj Pasiński. The artwork is by Herba and, together, Herba and Pasiński create various work. This book is brought to you by Centrala, publishers of marvelous works from Central Europe.

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Think of one of the darkest tales of folklore you’ve read and then read this. “Fertility” works on a highly uninhibited level. It’s brought to life by Herba’s bold drawing style and held together by a relentless pace. The subdued blue hues running throughout kiss the work with dark grace. Rabbits are being tortured as they fall into endless traps set by the young village women. But the women don’t notice this. They are too caught up in their fertility rites. They know rabbits are synonymous with fertility. And, they believe, that eating their entrails with lead to them birthing baby boys.

Once we’ve witnessed the rabbits’ terror, it’s time to reverse the roles. If the women were callous, the rabbits are beyond heartless. It’s pretty rough stuff but it’s all rendered with poetic fervor. Each panel ratchets up the tension. The rabbits, once in bug-eyed fear, are now the masters. The young women desired fertility, but the rabbits tear that dream to shreds and then some. Herba is completely in touch with sexuality, the macabre, and very dark humor. This content is for mature readers, 18 and up. It’s a powerful work and one you won’t forget.

“Fertility” is a 36-page hardcover published by Centrala. For some of the most unique works in comics, visit our friends at Centrala right here.

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Filed under Centrala, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Horror

Review: TUFF LADIES, published by Centrala

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Tuff Ladies by Till Lukat

What does Belle Starr, Rosa Parks, and Ma Barker have in common? In “Tuff Ladies,” a new work in comics by Till Lukat, they are part of his kaleidoscopic tour of women in history. This is a most unusual book and quite a page-turner. Lukat has assembled 24 portraits of significant women. He calls his choices “remarkable” but, perhaps “colorful” is a better catch-all word. Or maybe “provocative.” It’s a fascinating collection.

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Profile on Ann Boney, Pirate Queen

There is certainly a subversive sensibility at play here. It’s not so much that Lukat is glorifying each and every woman he’s profiled. It’s more like he’s presenting each figure as a compelling character from fiction. Each woman here is depicted in Lukat’s energetic woodcut-like style. Each profile has its own crazy urgency: a bold portrait followed by a brief comic strip and topped off with some brief text.

The most controversial inclusion is Ulrike Meinhof of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, a left-wing terrorist group that committed several murders, kidnappings, bank robberies, and bomb attacks. The overall theme is that all these women made a huge impact. Not all of them are well-known. In fact, Lukat pretty much avoids obvious choices. One of the more poignant ones is for Miep Gies. Thanks to her, the Diary of Anne Frank was kept safe from the Nazis to go on to be known throughout the world.

This book is a treat. It’s a perfect gateway for further exploration. It’s odd, artful, and most refreshing.

“Tuff Ladies” is a 64-page hardcover published by Centrala. For some of the most unique works in comics, visit our friends at Centrala right here.

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Filed under Centrala, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels